Sample Scholarship Essays


AIDS Gonzales 1 The Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) was first discovered in 1981 as a unique and newly recognized infection of the body’s immune system (Mellors 3). The name AIDS was formally know as GRIDS (Gay Related Immune Defiance Syndrome). The first case of AIDS was discovered in Los Angeles, where scientists from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) were called in on a half dozen cases. The CDC was convinced what they were seeing was a new strand of virus. None of the staff members had ever seen a strand of virus that could do so much destruction to the immune system like this one did. Many theories about this disease were in question.

Many scientists believed it originated in Africa. Many thought the virus existed in humans in South Central Africa for hundreds and thousands of years, causing only minor symptoms in isolated groups until it spread more widely. AIDS could also be traced back to 1959, where a blood sample was taken from a man from Zaire and then frozen. Labs later indicated that the blood sample had the AIDS virus strand in it. Some weird theories also arose in the science arena, where some scientists believed that the virus was caused by a mutation of an existing virus. Others thought it was a creation of God to punish sinful people.

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A former government worker claimed it was a plot by the CIA to eliminate the population. One scientist thought the virus was brought here from outer space. One more theory about this virus was this was nature’s way of telling us we have to many people. Gonzales 2 The AIDS rate was known to be very high in homosexual men. It was believed that the AIDS virus was carried from Africa to Haiti.

Haiti was known as “gay paradise,” because it was a popular vacation spot for homosexuals. Bathhouses were the hang out for many homosexual men and a place where prostitution flourished. Some bathhouses reported that more than 1000 men would visit each year. Since many men from all over the world visited these bathhouses, researchers believed the spread of AIDS could be linked to this type of behavior. There are many symptoms that are associated with the AIDS virus, such as HIV (Human Immundodeficiency Virus). HIV is subdivided into two related types, HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-1 is individuals at high risk for developing the AIDS virus.

HIV-2 is among people in West Africa and a few other cities that have the strand of the virus called SIV (Simian Immundefienciency Virus) which is found in wild African monkeys. The pattern of the HIV virus usually lasts up to ten years before any symptoms are detected. The first stage is the Primary HIV infection stage. This is where the disease is first detected. Following 3-6 weeks after the initial detection, the Acute HIV Syndrome stage kicks in.

Some symptoms to look for in this stage are fever, headaches, sore throat, rashes, and diarrhea. The next stage is the Clinical Latency stage. This stage usually lasts for several years. Some symptoms to look for in this stage are fever, weight loss, fatigue, night Gonzales 3 sweats, and diarrhea. Some infections to look for in this stage are Herpes Zoster (Shingles), Herpes simplex, and lesions on the body.

Following the pain and suffering that comes with all these symptoms; death finally takes its toll on another victim. The death toll that AIDS has inflicted on America today is unbelievably high. Within the past decade, the pandemic of HIV and AIDS infections has spread all across the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that by mid 1996 approximately 28 million people worldwide would had been infected with the HIV virus, of whom 8 million have developed the AIDS and nearly 6 million, including 1.3 million children had died (Mellors 4). It is estimated that about 22 million adults and children are infected worldwide from the HIV virus, and of the 22 million people, about 1 million are in the United States, 5 million in Asia, and about 14 million people in Africa.

By the year 2000, the number of AIDS infections will reach about 40 million people across the world. Of all these cases reported in the world, men comprise about 50% of all AIDS cases, woman account for 40%, and children born with this disease comprise of 10%. In the United States, total of more than 500,000 cases were reported to the CDC in 1996. Of those, 500,000 people, 62% of these individuals died from AIDS. AIDS is now the leading cause of death in male’s aged 25-44.

The number of cases have increased through the years, as shown here: ? 1985- 4,445 cases were reported. ? 1986- 8,249 Gonzales 4 ? 1987- 12,932 ? 1988- 21,070 ? 1989- 31,001 ? 1990- 33,722 ? 1991- 41,595 ? 1992- 43,672 ? 1994- 78,279 ? 1995- 71,547 The reported cases by sex were 40,080 men, and 6,255 women. Homosexuals and I.V. drug users account for 81% of cases in men. Heterosexual users account for 84% of cases in women (Key 4). Between the years 1994 and 1995, there was a drop in cases reported to the CDC. This is primarily due to the awareness and education of the public to the dangers of AIDS. Spreading the word of prevention is very costly, but the word has to get through to the young generation growing up.

High Schools around the country should be educating young teens on this deadly disease. Between 40,000 to 80,000 American’s have the AIDS virus, statistics show that one out of four teenagers have the disease. Today, President Clinton is advising the White House Office of AIDS Policy to talk to young adults about AIDS and the consequences that come with having the disease (Washington 2). Studies have shown that teens that had sex education are less likely to be infected through sexual intercourse. Education is the key for prevention Gonzales 5 among teenagers, since it causes them to realize the dangers of unsafe sex and intravenous drug use. One of the major obstacles in sex education is that many adults refuse to believe their children are sexually active and do not want to seem as if they condone sex.

When it comes to HIV status, do not take anyone’s word for it. Researchers found out that 40% of AIDS infected people do not tell their partners, and almost half of them do not even use condoms (Brietzke 88). Testing for HIV is the most important aspect in preventing AIDS. HIV testing is helpful because if a person is aware that he/she is infected, they can be more careful about not spreading the deadly virus. People are often afraid to get tested, for the fear of knowing they are infected.

Home tests are now available for easier access and privacy. Researchers worry about young teenagers taking their own life if they were to find out they were infected with the HIV virus. The most important thing to remember about HIV prevention is, you are responsible for your own actions. If you have to use intravenous drugs, make sure the needles are always sterile. Practice safe sex and avoid sex with someone who might be infected. Get tested for HIV if you think there is any chance you may have contracted the HIV virus from someone.

Ten years ago AIDS was discovered. To this day, researches still do not have a vaccine for this deadly disease. It took scientists three years after the virus was discovered to find out how it really works and operates (Key 11). The limited treatment Gonzales 6 available back in 1985 is not nearly as affected as it is today. Today’s treatment is more advanced, but it is very costly and demanding. The only inexpensive treatment that we can give today is prevention.

AIDS dropped a stunning 44% in 1997, due to three new potent drugs (Mellors 5). These three new drugs are suppose to revolutionize AIDS care in the future. Typically people start taking these drugs when they learn they are infected with the virus, or when they start showing symptoms of sickness. People who were deathly ill were used to experiment with these new drugs. Months later the patients started showing signs of improvement. Still these drugs are not for everyone.

One third of the patients did not improve and later died. The most common reason people stop taking the drugs was that the patients have to swallow 20 or more pills a day, and take them at a precise time. Missing a couple of pills may cause the virus to become immune to the medication. There are many patients that rely on this treatment because this is the only treatment that is making them feel better. To this day in America, the CDC estimates between 400,000 to 650,000 people to be infected with the virus within the next two years.

The country needs to pull together and help educate the American people on the dangers of HIV and AIDS.


AIDS Related Stigma Since the appearance of AIDS in the late seventies and early eighties, the disease has had attached to it a significant social stigma. This stigma has manifested itself in the form of discrimination, avoidance and fear of people living with AIDS (PLWAs). As a result, the social implications of the disease have been extended from those of other life threatening conditions to the point at which PLWAs are not only faced with a terminal illness but also social isolation and constant discrimination throughout society. Various explanations have been suggested as to the underlying causes of this stigmatization. Many studies point to the relationship the disease has with deviant behavior. Others suggest that fear of contagion is the actual culprit. Examining the existing literature and putting it into societal context leads one to believe that there is no one cause. Instead, there would appear to be a collection of associated factors that influence societys attitudes towards AIDS and PLWAs. As the number of people infected with HIV increases, social workers are and will be increasingly called upon to deal with and serve PLWAs. Although not all social workers chose to work with PLWAs, the escalating incidence of HIV infection is creating a situation in which sera positive people are and will be showing up more often in almost all areas of social work practice. This paper aims to examine AIDS related stigma and the stigmatization process, hopefully providing insights into countering the effects of stigma and perhaps the possibility of destigmatization. This is of particular pertinence to the field of social work due to our growing involvement with the HIV positive population. Association to Deviant/Marginal Behavior one of the most clearly and often identified causes of AIDS related stigma is its association to deviant behavior. The disease has had and still does have a strong association for many to homosexuality, IV drug use, sexual promiscuity and other sorts of sexual practice (OHare, et al., 1996; Canadian Association of Social Workers, 1990; Quam, 1990 & Beauger, 1989). An especially strong association exists between homosexuality and AIDS. This is largely due to the fact that, in the early years of the disease, it was far more prevalent within the gay community and almost non-existent outside of it. In fact, until 1982 the disease was referred to as GRID or Gay Related Immune Deficiency. Even today, AIDS is often referred to as the gay plague (Giblin, 1995). Even though AIDS is now far less prevalent in the homosexual community and increasingly more outside of it, this link still remains strong for many. Along with the historical context of AIDS, the media is partly to blame for this not so accurate association. The Canadian Association of Social Workers (1990) reports that, often the media has not distinguished between gay and AIDS, so that public understanding of homosexuality and AIDS has become enmeshed (p.10). In recent years, the media has started to make more accurate distinctions between homosexuality and AIDS, but messages are still mixed and often ambiguous. The situation is quite similar in regard to IV drug use, prostitution, and other activities commonly associated with AIDS. This focus that the media has put on specific groups incorrectly places emphasis on high risk groups rather than high risk activities. As a result, the word AIDS alone conjures, for many, images of those who stray from what society deems normal behavior. Many of the groups to which AIDS is associated have long histories of stigmatization before the appearance of AIDS. Homosexuals, in western culture, have almost always suffered the effects of being a stigmatized population. The same is true of prostitutes, IV drug users, and people of color (OHare, et al., 1996; Giblin, 1995 & CASW, 1990). It is significant to mention colored populations, as the parts of the world that are most severely effected by AIDS, such as countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia, and Haiti, are mostly populated by races other than Caucasian. As a result, a strong association has also been made between AIDS and people of color (Quam, 1990). The fact that AIDS is associated with already stigmatized groups has two principal effects. First and most obvious, is that societys negative attitudes towards the group in question are transferred to AIDS and PLWAs. Second, is an amplification of the existing negative feelings that society holds towards the groups associated with the disease (CASW, 1990). As a result, homosexuals, prostitutes, colored people and other groups associated to HIV infection are not only seen as deviant or undesirable, but also as potential carriers of the virus who are to be feared and avoided. Some religious groups see AIDS as a punishment from God for sinful behaviour. As children, many people were told that of what could happen to them if they strayed from what their parents or religious doctrine considered appropriate behaviour. Quam (1990) writes, Their parents and other parental authorities warned them that if they succumbed to pleasures of the flesh they would suffer dire consequences. Now AIDS would appear to fulfill such prophecies (36). Such sentiment still exists publicly today. When asked about his feelings about the AIDS epidemic, Jerry Falwell, a popular and quite influential televangelist said publicly, When you violate moral, health, and hygiene laws, you reap the whirlwind. You can not shake your fist in Gods face and get away with it (Giblin, 1995). Another factor influencing attitudes towards PLWAs is the fear of contagion. In fact, Bishop, Alva, Cantu, and Rittiman (1991) argue that this is a greater cause of stignatization than the association to deviant behaviour. They found that many people expressed negative attitudes towards PLWAs regardless of how the virus was contracted or the persons background. The fact that there is no known cure for AIDS and as of yet the disease always ends in death validates this fear for many. As people are becoming more aware of how the virus is transmitted, they seem to be become less fearful of PLWAs. However, peoples fear and avoidance of PLWAs is still greatly effected depending on the mode of transmission (Borchert & Rickabaugh, 1995). In recent years, a distinction has been made in our society between what we consider to be innocent and deserving victims of AIDS. Society tends to classify people who contract AIDS through blood transfusions, their mothers at birth, or other uncontrollable circumstances as innocent victims. On the other hand, homosexuals, IV drug users, the sexually promiscuous, and other deviants are seen as deserving of the condition they are in when they contract AIDS. The common attitude held towards the deserving victim is that of you play, you pay (Quam, 1990). This mentality leads to feelings of fear and hostility towards and a great lack of compassion for those who are incorrectly and irrationally deemed as being deserving of the disease. Borchert and Rickabugh (1995) found that greater levels of AIDS related stigma were expressed towards PLWAs who played an active role in the contraction of HIV. They noticed that people actually expressed quite sympathetic feelings towards people who played no active role in contraction, the innocent victims. It is only since the beginning of this decade that we have begun to notice this phenomenon. In the past, no distinction was made regarding mode of transmission. In the 1980s, school children who had contracted HIV through blood transfusions were stigmatized almost as badly as homosexuals and often not even allowed to attend public schools. It was only after the highly publicized case of Ryan White that we saw the shift in attitudes and the formation of the innocent/deserving distinction (Giblin, 1995). Social Implications The effects of stigma for PLWAs are many. They suffer discrimination from the general public in a variety of settings, including work, school and within the health care environment. In the early years of AIDS, many PLWAs were actually refused service in North American hospitals and some were fired from their jobs upon announcing that they had AIDS. The fact that the Canadian Human Rights Commission felt it necessary to specifically address HIV/AIDS discrimination is a good indicator as to what point it exists. Many PLWAs also experience extreme social isolation due to their illness; because of the negative reactions of friends and family members, the seropositive person is often rejected by many members of their social entourage (Giblin, 1995; Bishop, et al., 1991; CASW, 1990; lAssociation des Medecines de Langue Francaise du Canada, 1990 & Quam, 1990). The situation for PLWAs has changed somewhat in recent years. Legislation has been passed in both Canada and the United States making it illegal to discriminate against people for having AIDS. A major turning point occurred in the U.S. in 1990 after the highly publicized case of Ryan White. Ryan was a child with AIDS who was not permitted to attend public school due to his condition. Shortly after his death, a law was passed (the Ryan White Act) to try to prevent such discriminatory actions from happening again. Whites story is not unique. At the same time that he was being excluded from public schools, a family with two seropositive children was forced to leave the Florida town they were living in after threats of violence and an arson fire in their home (Giblin, 1995 & Quam, 1990). At approximately the same time as U.S. legislation was passed, the Canadian government included AIDS under its human rights commission anti- discrimination laws. Although some things have changed and laws have been passed, the effects if stigma are still prevalent. Many people still express feelings of fear and hostility towards PLWAs (OHare, et al., 1996). Most of the negative attitudes felt and expressed are irrational but the effects can be devastating. One effect is peoples tendency to avoid all contact with PLWAs which contributes to social isolation. Also, even though legislation has been passed, discrimination still does exist. When asked about the treatment he received at Montreal General Hospital, an HIV positive patient explained that AIDS discrimination is far
Social Issues


For an epidemic that would explode to claim hundreds of thousands of lives, AIDS surfaced very quietly in the United States, with a small notice on June 4, 1981 in a weekly newsletter published by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, alerting doctors to five unusual cases of pneumonia that had been diagnosed in Los Angeles residents over the previous few months.
All the patients were homosexual men who had come down with PCP (Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia), a lung infection usually seen only severely malnourished children or adults undergoing intensive chemotherapy. But until they got sick the California men were well nourished, vigorous adults, whose immune systems should have protected them from the infection.
Within the year, similar cases were reported from all over the country: apparently healthy adults who were suddenly getting sick with rare infections and malignancies that healthy people should not get. Most were from New York City, California, Florida and Texas, and not all were homosexual men. Men and women who used intravenous drugs were also getting sick, as were men with hemophilia, the male and female sexual partners of people in these risk groups, immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean, and some of the infant children born to women at risk.
All these varied people had one thing in common: almost absent levels of the white blood cells called T helper cells that keep the immune system functioning properly. Their defective immune systems left them vulnerable to one serious health problem after another. Although many problems could be treated, and even cured, others immediately arose. After their first serious problem, people were said to have AIDS, and once diagnosed with AIDS most survived for only a year or two.
By 1984, the virus called H.I.V. was firmly established as the cause of the mysterious syndrome. H.I.V. can pass from one person to another through sexual contact or contact with infected blood, settle into their T helper cells, and progressively destroy them.
A blood test to detect carriers of H.I.V. was released in the spring of 1985. For the first time people could be tested to see if they were at risk for developing AIDS, and scientists could get some idea of the form the epidemic, if unchecked, might grow to take in the USA and around the world.
The news was not good. The epidemic was shaped like an iceberg, with a small visible tip and a huge invisible base. For every person who was sick with AIDS, thousands of others were infected with H.I.V. but were still entirely well, and often not even aware that they were infected and able to transmit the virus to others.
At the end of 1988, for instance, almost 90,000 Americans had been diagnosed with AIDS, and almost 50,000 had died of the illness, but public health officials were estimating that close to a million might carry the virus. By the peak of the epidemic in 1995, 476,000 Americans had been diagnosed with AIDS, more than half of whom had died.

Fortunately, though, the discovery of H.I.V. also let scientists begin to make progress in preventing and treating the disease. For the first time units of donated blood could be tested to make sure they were free from infection before being transfused, and drugs could be tested in the laboratory to see if they could kill the virus and keep the infection from progressing.

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The first drug found to have activity against H.I.V. was AZT, which was released for widespread use in 1987. Even used at high doses that came with many side effects, the drug by itelf did not work very well to treat people sick with AIDS, or to prevent healthy H.I.V.-infected people from getting sick. But it did prove to be extremely important in slowing one phase of the epidemic: in 1994 a study showed that AZT was very effective in keeping H.I.V. infection from passing from mother to baby, and numbers of H.I.V. infected newborns began to decline.

Meanwhile, other anti-H.I.V. drugs slowly followed AZT onto drugstore shelves, and doctors began to treat patients with combinations of the most potent ones. In 1996, a set of powerful drugs called the protease inhibitors was released, and the picture of AIDS in the United States began to change.

Terminally ill people treated with combinations of protease inhibitors and older drugs — a medication “cocktail” that often required them to take dozens of pills and capsules a day at precisely timed intervals — suddenly began to regain their health, and the statistics of AIDS in the United States began to change dramatically.

In 1996 the death rate from AIDS in the US was 23% less than in 1995, and in 1997 it fell again by more than 40%.
The new drug combinations could also stop healthy people who were H.I.V. infected from getting sick with AIDS, and rates of new AIDS cases began to fall–by 6% in 1996, 15% in 1997, and about 25% in 1998.
The new drug combinations have worked so well in some people with AIDS that doctors predict they may survive for years or even decades despite their disease, living normal lives as people do with other chronic treatable conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure.
But for many other infected people, the new drugs are only a beginning. H.I.V. is a virus with thousands of different strains and mutations, and it can develop resistance to drugs very quickly. About half the people who initially respond to drug combinations may stop responding because the virus in their bloodstream has grown tolerant to the drugs they are taking.
And, more importantly, while the new anti-H.I.V. treatments have made a big difference in the shape of the AIDS epidemic in the United States and Europe, at $15,000 or more a year they are far too expensive for use in the impoverished countries of Africa and Asia, where the vast majority of the world’s H.I.V. infected people live.
For these countries, the best hope against AIDS lies in the development of a vaccine that can prevent people who are exposed to H.I.V. from acquiring the infection. But the same variability that allows H.I.V. to elude drugs also makes it a very difficult to trap the virus into a vaccine.
So the challenges of AIDS research now lie along two lines. First, new drugs must be devised to keep people who are already infected with H.I.V. from getting sick, drugs that are safer and easier to take than the older ones and active against virus that has grown resistant to the older drugs. Second, H.I.V. must be stopped from passing from person to person and causing new infections. Until an effective vaccine is developed the best methods of preventing new infections seem to be relatively old- fashioned ones: educating people about the disease, encouraging those who may be infected to get tested, and developing effective ways of discouraging illicit drug use and encouraging condom use to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
Micheal W. Adler, ABC of AIDS, Login Brothers Book Company, 1993.
Gerald J. Stine, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome:Biological,Medical,Social, and Legal Issues, Prentice Hall, 1995.
William C. Douglass, AIDS-The End of Civilization:The Greatest Biological Disaster in the History of Mankind, A;B Book Publishers, 1992.
Virginia Berridge, AIDS and Contemporary History, Cambridge University Press, 1993.
Charles H. Russell, AIDS in America, Springer Verlag, 1991.
Reuters, Myriad Genetics finds new HIV Drug Target, Salt Lake City, 11/18/99
Newsweek.Com, AIDS Gaffe?, Weekend Edition, 11/6/99


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